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B Y I V O D R U R Y, M D , M B A

DOES
md+mba= HAPPINESS AND SUCCESS?
Careful review of your rationale and the range of program options

and demands are key considerations before you enter the classroom.

persons with MBA degrees who claim

D
R. CHRISTINE GUICO-PABIA medicine in a new role after four years
MD, MBA, MPH, the direc- as a stay-at-home mother. Two col- to have all the answers.
tor of neuroscience global leagues’ suggestions of getting an * We note that the MD/MBA
medical affairs for Wyeth MBA led her to seek the opinion of an combination, while uncommon, is
Pharmaceuticals, was in the independent adviser. Discussions certainly no longer rare.
vanguard of physicians adding formal quickly clarified that she had no clear Quite reasonably, therefore, many
management training to their MDs rationale behind obtaining an MBA, physicians ask whether formal training
when she obtained an MBA degree at though she undoubtedly would have in business and management would
Temple University 16 years ago. She been accepted and prospered in such a open up new career options.
sought the degree to complement her program. Rather, she nursed a private In mid-career, at age 47, and while
background in public service and saw wish to be a psychiatrist, a career op- serving as a chair of a neurology
an MBA (master of business adminis- tion she had rejected earlier as it was department, I obtained an MBA. I’ve
tration) as the next step in the evolu- her father’s field of practice. She en- been actively involved in physician
tion of her career. In a 15-year career tered a second residency in psychiatry management both before and since
in the pharmaceutical industry since at a .8 FTE basis to allow her meet her receiving the MBA, and after the
earning her MBA, she credits her de- family responsibilities and is now thriv- degree in the development of startup
gree with “shifting the way I thought ing in the second year of her program. companies and as an adviser to
which allowed me to bring in fresh Whether it’s for career advancement industry. When asked by physician
ideas” combining medical and business or greater variety, many physicians colleagues about the merits and
perspectives and adding credibility consider opportunities to expand their practicalities of heading back to the
with non-physician business colleagues. professional roles. Daily life at the hos- classroom, I say that background
She singles out the value of her busi- pital or clinic exposes us to some or all research falls under three main
ness training in teaching her how to of the following: considerations:
position her point of view for her spe- * We are part of the health-care industry,
cial interest—developing and deliver- surrounded by layers of bureaucracy * Critical examination of your rationale
ing health-care technologies. and a strict regulatory environment. for acquiring an MBA
Lauren M., a 35-year old emergency
* Our institutions may employ large * Knowing the range of program options
room physician, wanted to return to numbers of younger administrative available to you

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Kevin Ruggles, MD,
the chief physician
executive of Rockford
Health Physicians in
Rockford, Illinois,
holds a master’s of
medical management
(MMM). “Practices
with strong physi-
cian-centric cultures
are places where you
have to prove yourself
with years of clinical
experience before
you can ascend to
management or exec-
utive roles, and
where that back-
ground counts for
more than an addi-
tional degree.”

* Knowing what you should expect are short-circuiting the process of pathologist, a biotechnology compa-
once the program is under way putting your career under the micro- ny executive, and a CEO of a med-
Working through these considera- scope. You would do better to exam- ical education and research consor-
tions will help ensure that your deci- ine your professional and personal tium. He proposes that if you want to
sion to proceed is a thoughtful, well- options thoroughly, focus on a limited reinvent yourself, you would do bet-
researched one with the greatest like- number of target choices, then de- ter to take stock of what you don’t
lihood that this new qualification will cide whether or how an additional like about your current situation
add real value to your professional degree would be helpful. Don’t ex- rather than head to the classroom.
life and future career opportunities. pect novel ideas about how to spend There are scores of fine business
the second half of your medical ca- minds among physicians in every
Examine your rationale reer to emerge in an accounting class. arena of health care who don’t have
Drill down into your reasons to Keep in mind that it is part of our formal business or management
pursue an MBA: professional culture as physicians to training. The more you stay in the
* What’s driving your desire for career place a high value on formal qualifi- mainstream of health care and par-
change and development? Are these cations. Classrooms are familiar, ticularly with one organization or
influences more a move away from comfortable environments where we practice during your career, the less
some feature of your professional life have already displayed the ability to need will there be for additional qual-
or a move toward some particular succeed. ifications. In fact, in some practice
goal? Kent Bottles agrees there is noth- cultures, clinical experience counts
* How do you envision an MBA degree ing automatically transforming about more. Kevin Ruggles, MD, the chief
will open up new career avenues, and adding the letters “MBA” to your cre- physician executive of Rockford
are there alternate routes to consider? dentials. “There’s a tendency for Health Physicians in Rockford,
* Will you be open to unanticipated
physicians disenchanted with medical Illinois, also holds a master’s of med-
“byproducts” of your MBA education? practice to think there’ll be a magic ical management (MMM). He was
to getting an MBA” says Bottles, the previously a staff neurologist and a
If you elect to get an MBA degree vice-president and the chief medical physician executive at the Marshfield
as a way around feeling stuck or disil- officer of the Iowa Health System. Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin, and
lusioned with clinical medicine, you Bottles has worked as an academic Continued

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MD + MBA = Happiness and Success?
Continued from previous page

he says, “Practices with strong physi-


cian-centric cultures are places where POINTS TO PONDER
you have to prove yourself with years of * RATIONALE - How will an MBA facilitate * ADVANCE PREPARATION - While most pro-
clinical experience before you can as- new professional opportunities or alternate grams waive the GMAT for physicians, you
cend to management or executive roles, career roles in your existing practice? Do a will find that comfort with e-learning (even at
and where that background counts for reality check with colleagues who’ve ob- local schools), Internet usage, EXCEL, and
more than an additional degree.” tained MBAs at different institutions and for statistics are de facto prerequisites.
In addition, an MBA—of itself—will
diverse purposes. * IN-PROGRAM TIME COMMITMENT - Most
not make you an expert in finance, mar-
* FINANCIAL COST - Tuition costs range established physicians enroll in an execu-
keting, or accounting. An MBA is a gen-
from $40,000 to $90,000; factor other tive-style MBA while continuing practice.
eral business degree providing you ex-
posure to a wide range of business disci- costs like travel, lodging, and costs Course durations average 15 to 21 months
plines. In this way, it’s like your medical of lost income. Any employer tu- with typical total on-campus classroom time
degree. After graduation from med ition support may be imputed income. of four to 12 weeks and weekly homework of
school, you had to pick your specialty * LOCATION OF PROGRAM - Learning approximately 20 hours. Weigh pros and
and go through residency training, and may be at local schools, involve consid- cons of structured program or flex-learning
graduates of full-time MBA programs erable travel, or be primarily electronic. with constraints of your existing responsibili-
commonly go through extensive on-the- Weigh the added stress and time for travel ties and self-discipline about course comple-
job training in the intricacies of finance tion. Full-time programs are typically consid-
and your comfort with e-learning. Team-
or marketing after they start on Wall ered by younger physicians placing their
based projects will prove more feasible with
Street or Madison Avenue. medical degree in a secondary role in future
local schools.
Physicians considering a career in in-
career planning.
dustries like medical insurance or phar- * LEARN WITH PHYSICIANS OR OTHERS -
maceuticals sometimes believe that hav- Physician-exclusive MBAs or MMMs * INTELLECTUAL CHALLENGE - Some
ing an MBA will make them a more at- enhance intra-health-care networking coursework, especially quantitatively-intense
tractive job candidate. However, it is opportunities, contain more health-care material, can be quite challenging.
your medical degree, specialty training, industry case discussion, and offer CME * MINDING FRIENDS AND FAMILY - Ensure
and clinical experience that remain the credit. General MBA programs provide support from your family and practice col-
cornerstone of your application. If you broader variety in case exposure and leagues before you begin the program and
are employed in these fields and desire classmate background. commit to sustain it during the training.
the qualification, you may find that se-
nior executives will sponsor your MBA
if this is mutually advantageous. cians rather than the heavily quantita- Know the range of program options
Before enrolling, check your rationale tive roles in health economics and fi-
with colleagues who already have had nance that initially drew me to the class- Secure with your rationale as to the
an MBA for several years. Ask about room. In another example, Bertrand added value of an MBA, you must then
their original purpose for obtaining the Liang, a neuro-oncologist by training choose from the wide range of program
degree, how it advanced their career and now the board chairman of Tracon options available. Your ultimate choice
progression, and whether the degree Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and the vice will come down to a set of tradeoffs—
took their career in a different direction chairman of Paramount BioSciences, though each style of program has its
than they originally envisioned. The both in San Diego, says his MBA de- proponents, final choices are driven
usefulness of an MBA “settles” over sev- gree “opened up worlds that I’d never more by the constraints of your existing
eral years, making discussions with vet- have perceived.” He developed particu- personal and professional realities,
eran holders of the degree more valu- lar interests in finance and corporate rather than there being one type of pro-
able. strategy during his training and runs a gram that is intrinsically superior.
In my case, I’m much more involved financial services group that funds While full-time MBA programs
now in human resource issues for physi- biotechnology ventures. Continued

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MD + MBA = Happiness and Success?
Continued from previous page

Median Compensation of Physician Executives by Post-Graduate Business Management Degree and Position
From the 2005 Physician Executive Compensation Survey, published by Cejka Search and the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE).

No Degree MBA MMM MPH MHA JD

All Physician Executives $239,000 $250,000 $250,000 $220,000 $250,000 $237,000


Assoc/Asst Medical Director 205,000 232,000 220,000 180,000 - -
CEO/President 323,250 340,000 310,000 225,000 358,500
Dept/Division Chair/Mgr 265,000 290,000 282,500 250,000 340,000 -
Medical Director 225,000 225,000 228,000 208,500 225,500 205,000
VP of Medical Affairs 235,000 255,000 239,500 238,000 - -
Chief Operations Officer 256,000 281,400 184,000 275,000 - 500,000
Reprinted with permission from Cejka Search. Information is based on responses from 2,422 ACPE members nationwide.

abound, part-time programs are most medical director of Southern Michigan reer.”
popular with physicians because they Pain Consultants in Kalamazoo, A distinct plus of physician-exclusive
allow you to continue to practice. Michigan and an associate professor at MBA programs is the networking op-
Programs may be completed at local ed- the College of Osteopathic Medicine of portunities they present. Guernsey saw
ucational institutions or at considerable Michigan State University, recently com- great benefit from networking, feeling
distance. Of course, universities farther pleted the one-year-long MBA program he’d developed “professional friends for
away have ancillary costs such as travel for physicians at the University of life” and was delighted that his pro-
and hotel accommodation, and more Tennessee in Knoxville. He favored a gram had active alumni group meet-
time away from family and work. All physician-exclusive program because he ings. Other dual-degreed physicians say
programs include some component of is focused on health care and wanted to there are also benefits to being in pro-
e-learning, and for some (including contribute to health-care policy. With grams with non-medical MBA stu-
physician specific programs) the per- heavy practice commitments, it was also dents. Bottles says physicians “have
centage approaches 100 percent. For important for him to be involved in a much to learn from industries like air-
Liang, who completed his degree at program with “defined goals and timeta- lines and hotels.” Case studies from
Regis University in Denver, 80 percent bles giving me structure and discipline.” these industries are more frequently
of the program was e-based and al- The MMM degree has been avail- discussed in general MBA programs
lowed for flexible course duration. The able through the American College of than those that are physician exclusive.
greater the course duration and flexibili- Physician Executives (ACPE) since
ty available, the more discipline is re- 1997 and involves completing pro- Know what’s involved
quired to complete the training. grams in medical management through Once you have identified one or two
In addition to general MBAs, there ACPE followed by additional course- educational programs to which you feel
are MBA programs exclusive to physi- work at one of three business schools most suited, you must consider several
cians as well as MBA-like degrees, such (Carnegie-Mellon University, Tulane practical hurdles. Evaluation of these
as the MMM. Most full-time MBA and University, or the University of potential roadblocks will allow you to
MMM programs take two years to com- Southern California). Ruggles pursued complete your degree while sustaining
plete. Physician-exclusive programs are his MMM degree at USC because “I’d your personal and current professional
designed to be part time. One benefit of already completed several ACPE activities and avoid any of those “well,
physician-exclusive programs is that courses, so it was logistically easier and I never thought about that” moments.
CME may be earned while enrolled. less expensive. Also, I knew where I
Charles Guernsey, DO, MBA, the wanted to go with the rest of my ca- Continued

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MD + MBA = Happiness and Success?
Continued from previous page

* ADVANCE TESTING AND PREPARATION.


4pm Friday to 5pm Saturday) over 17 opinions should be acknowledged.
GMATs, the business school equivalent months. Most weeks required about an Transient discomfort in a collegial rela-
of the MCATs, will usually be waived. additional 20 hours of self study, assign- tionship is preferable to being perceived as
Program directors feel the demands of ment completion and a three- to four- a deceitful.
your undergraduate and graduate med- hour face-to-face meeting with three
* MINDING FRIENDS AND FAMILY
ical training already indicate you possess teammates who lived nearby. This is
the intellectual capacity and self-disci- representative of the time commitments Your MBA program, however demand-
pline to successfully complete the course required at many programs around the ing, will end, but life with your
requirements. As a prospective MBA country for students trying to get maxi- spouse/partner, children, and other
student you should be comfortable with mum value from their experience. family and friends continues. When con-
e-learning and Internet usage. sidering an MBA, reflect on how to inte-
* INTELLECTUAL CHALLENGE
Knowledge of statistics, and an under- grate such a sizeable time commitment
standing of software programs like Excel While you’ll be well up to the intellectu- into your professional and family lives.
and PowerPoint are also prerequisites. If al demands of a graduate business de- You should seek and obtain the willing
you fail to master Excel or brush up on gree, you should anticipate that some support of your loved ones before you
statistics before starting the MBA in the course work, especially the quantitative- commence the program, allow time for
belief that you’ll “wing it,” you’ll be ly intense material, will prove challeng- them throughout the course, and cele-
sorry. The pace of learning is fast, the ing—there may be more than one rea- brate your completing the degree by re-
assignments come week after unceasing son for economics being called the dis- warding them in some particular way.
week. Don’t expect sympathy for your mal science. “I was able to gain mastery Overall, formal business and manage-
life as a busy physician of finance, statistics, and the on-line ment training offers opportunities to ex-
marketplace simulation, but only with a pand your professional role, interact more
* COST
significant time penalty,” says Guernsey. effectively with senior non-physician ad-
You should anticipate tuition costs of Other physician colleagues describe the ministrators in their practice, and advance
$40,000 to $90,000 spread over the dura- challenging courses as “humbling.” your career in ways you may or may not
tion of the program. This includes books anticipate. Positive returns from acquiring
* REACTIONS OF COLLEAGUES
and special software programs, but not the the degree are most likely to occur when
cost of particular features of some pro- Annual expenditures on health care within you critically assess your rationale with the
grams. Remember to factor other costs the United States may be at $1.7 trillion, aid of seasoned colleagues and know what
like travel, lodging, and meals, and the but the culture of the medical profession is you (and your family) are committing to
cost of lost income while you are not at one still uneasy at accepting the business before you cross the threshold of an MBA
your practice. Tuition support may be dimension to our patient care work. classroom. I
available from your employer—clarify the Physicians are almost reflexively skeptical
tax implications with an accountant as this of colleagues who choose to acquire for- Ivo Drury, MD, MBA advises physicians considering
may constitute imputed income. mal business or management training. I career transitions. A board-certified neurologist, he
* COURSE DURATION AND TIME
encourage meeting that skepticism head practiced at academic medical centers for 26 years
COMMITMENTS
on-the best interests of both our patients and has experience as a physician executive in mul-
Course durations vary from one to two and professional colleagues can be a pri- tiple capacities. He may be reached through
years, most requiring some on-campus mary driver for a physician to acquire an www.career-consulting-physicians.com.
class time. I completed the Weekend MBA. What’s more, the qualifications do
MBA program at Michigan State complement one another. Your colleagues
University’s Broad Graduate School of will feel affected even if their actual work-
Management. On campus time commit- load does not change. They, like our fami-
ments were three full weeks and 35 lies, are entitled to know what we are em-
weekends (with 12 hours of classes from barking on, and the legitimacy of their

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